Reading: Kim, by Rudyard Kipling

I finished Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, the Barnes & Noble edition with introduction and notes by Jeffrey Meyers, on 17 Aug 2009.

This is the first Kipling I’ve read since I was a kid (Jungle Book, Just So Stories, that kind of thing), and I was impressed. He’s a remarkably skillful writer with a knack for choosing precisely the right word. The settings and characters are completely convincing (particularly the Lama, the Babu, and Kim himself), and the spirit of the novel is generous, perceptive, and humane. The plot isn’t especially strong, but other aspects of the book are so gripping that one hardly cares.

The notes accompanying this edition are useful but suboptimal. Meyers often neglects to gloss unfamiliar words until the third or fourth time they occur, and the many geographical footnotes are less helpful than a map would have been. Meyers also sometimes seems to see literary allusions which are simply not there. For example, when the Lama bids his disciple farewell with “Dost thou love me? Then go, or my heart cracks,” a footnote informs us that this is a reference to King Lear‘s “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!” — leaving the reader to guess what, other the word “crack,” the two passages have in common and why a Tibetan Lama would be alluding to Shakespeare.

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